One of bhangra music’s biggest producers, Notorious Jatt, talks exclusively to Chakdey.com!
You’re gearing up for the release of your new album; Gamechanger, do you think expectations from the public are different now?
No, I think the public has always demanded good music. I think the days of producers making full albums with different singers are over though– as a result Gamechanger will be my last full studio album.
It’s been a good few years since the release of Livin’ It Up, how will Gamechanger differ from that album?
Gamechanger is an album that I have spent years developing; I knew it was going to be my last album during the production stage so I made sure it was my best ever work. Livin’ It Up was a huge album for me but I genuinely feel Gamechanger is a stronger and better product with much more depth and quality.
You’ve apparently been working on this upcoming new album for over 5 years; why has it taken so long to put it together?
I took time out from active production to do other things in life; I make music when my heart is in it. I did various other projects over the years with other singers like “Ramaal” with Kaka Bhaniawala and I also developed my artist Juz D from a novice to a now skilled and talented vocalist.
Your current single “Heartbreaker” features Pargat & Jagdev Khan who you worked with on “Marrey Dil Vaaliyan De”; apart from being the nephews of the late Kuldeep Manak– what else can you tell us about them?
They definitely like a drink, so it must run in the family, along with their powerful folk voices, as Kuldeep Manak was also well known for his love of a tipple.
More UK acts are breaking in Punjab than ever before, what are you plans for promoting the release out there? And is being successful in India important to you?
“Heartbreaker” has been released though E3UK Records, one of the reasons I joined them for this project is we will also be releasing the single in Punjab with a full TV media campaign on their sister label E3IN. In 2013 for a producer it is very important to make an impact in the Punjab as that is a potential source of new work with Punjab-based singers.
“Aish” was a massive track and it’s still heard out regularly today; did you have any idea when you made it that it would be so popular?
When I made “Aish” I had a feeling it would do well but as a producer you can never truly tell– during production I listen to the songs I make hundreds of times, for that reason it becomes very difficult to judge how good a song actually is. I remember the buzz and hype around the track when it released though; it was a great time to be involved in the UK Bhangra scene as the gig scene was still going strong back then.
Will you be featuring Preet Mahadipuria again on future releases?
Yes, the title song on Gamechanger features Preet, our last 3 tracks together have been “Aish”, “Pegg” and “Hoi Hoi” so this song has a lot to live up to. Preet is a singer I discovered in Punjab and we always seem to pull out big songs together so hopefully that will continue.
Do you approach vocalists you’d like to work with or vice versa?
Both– with my albums I generally approach or contact singers I would like to work with, but with the music I have produced for others outside of my own albums the singers or their labels have generally contacted me. “Khanda”, for example, was one of 6 songs I produced for Nirmal Sidhu’s album which was commissioned by Fame Records; the label went bust after the songs had been produced so Nirmal and I decided to release “Khanda” as a single ourselves on my label.
“Ramaal” gave you a Number 1 track on the official Asian Download Chart; is there pressure to keep the hits coming now as a result? And how important are the chart positions to you?
No, there is no pressure, I wouldn’t say “Ramaal” was the first Number 1 track I have produced in my career so it was not such a big deal. It’s always good when a song is received well by the public who buy the music but ultimately chart positions are not so important. The true test for a song is if it can sustain a longer life and not be forgotten a few months after release.
There’s been a lot of negativity on the UK bhangra scene in recent years, what’s your take on that?
The scene is in a poor state, there isn’t a lot of progression in terms of music production which has led to less people being interested in Punjabi music in general. It is also very hard for new artists to actually break through due to the high financial cost involved in getting TV media to support their releases etc.
Have you heard “Notorious Jatt” by Randy J? What were your thoughts on the title when you first heard about it?
Yeah I heard the track; it’s a catchy song that I know is very popular in Canada. The writer of the song contacted me on Facebook a while back and was telling me how I was the inspiration for some of the lyrics in the song so it’s all good that my name inspired a big hit song.
Which bhangra track from the last 3 years do you secretly wish you’d produced?
There is no song I wish I had produced– in my opinion that is a poor mentality to have for a producer as it is based on envy. I think every producer should work to develop his own sound and style and not worry about the success of others as it’s not a competition.
If you were approached to do a cheesy Bollywood item number, would you do it?
Sure but I would make sure the music wasn’t cheesy– music is universal and there shouldn’t be any boundaries so as long as the concept was good and the project was worth getting involved in, I would do it.
Are Bollywood soundtracks a goal most UK Asian producers should strive towards and why?
Bollywood music is quite different from Punjabi music which is why very few UK bhangra producers have made any real impact in Bollywood. Producers should strive to make the best music they can, if their music is good enough and they meet the right people at the right time anything is possible as the success of RDB in Bollywood has shown.
Do you think Punjabi music will ever crack the UK national charts again? What kind of track would it have to be to make that crossover?
It wasn’t really ‘Punjabi music’ that cracked the UK charts, it was a Knight Rider sampling hip hop beat with Punjabi vocals and a catchy tumbi riff that lead to that song’s success. I think the chances of a proper Desi dhol based Punjabi song making an impact in the national charts is very remote!
Which two of your tracks are you most proud of and why?
“Balbiro Bhabi” featuring Surinder Shinda on my first album as that was my first hit and “Aish” as it was such a popular song not just in the UK but in many other parts of the world.
What do you do in your spare time? What’s your life beyond music?
I like to work out, boxing and various MMA disciplines; I also like to eat well and travel.
The forthcoming album has a collaboration with Kaka Bhaniawala which was apparently one of the last ever vocals he recorded before he passed away; can you tell us a bit more about it?
The song with Kaka will be the next single from Gamechanger and the video is currently being edited– I am looking to release it around January. I think it’s one of the best songs I have ever produced as I stepped out of my comfort zone to make a unique song for such a unique voice. When I listen to the song, even now, it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up; I hope the public show it the same love they showed “Ramaal”.
The trademark sunglasses have come off on the single artwork to “Heartbreaker”; does that mean Notorious Jatt has mellowed with time?
Nah the reason I wasn’t wearing sunglasses was because it was night time when we did the photo shoot for the cover– no sun means no sunglasses!
You’ve been in the business since 1999, is it difficult keeping the ideas fresh? What do you do to inspire you and keep you motivated to make new music?
Music is an art and of course any artist will have times when they are less motivated and lack new ideas. The important thing is to relax, take a little time out and then come back stronger. A lot of artists have come and long gone in the 14 years since I first released so having the right frame of mind is important.
How important do you think presentation is over natural talent (like a strong voice, for example) and do you think one can work without the other in this day and age?
Like most things in life it’s about having a balance but for a singer the most important attribute they should have is a good voice; a butt ugly but great vocalist has a much better chance of success in music than a very good looking guy who can’t sing to save his life.
How involved are you in the promotion of your work once it’s in the hands of the record labels?
With my own label, Silverbak Records, I am more involved in the release and promotion; but with E3UK I tend to leave it in their hands as they have their own structure and network in place.
What’s playing on your iTunes this week?
“Loneliness 2k13 (Tujamo Remix)” – Tomcraft
“Lost Boys” – Lex, Coupes, Beemers and Benz
“Bhangra was better in the old days” – what would you say to someone who thinks that…
Nostalgia always makes the old days seem better than they really were; having said that, I think although there is some good music coming out today, the scene really was a better place to be back in the day.
Who is, in your opinion, the most underrated bhangra/Punjabi singer out there at the moment?
Juz D – Juz has worked very hard on his vocal training over the last 5 years and he is now a very competent live singer. Some of the new material we will be releasing over the next 12 months is sounding really promising.
Is there something you’d go back and do differently in your career if you could?
I probably would have not left it over 7 years before releasing a follow up project to Livin’ It Up – having said that the reason I think Gamechanger is such a strong album is because it developed over a long time period so maybe the best comes to those who wait. Current single “Heartbreaker” is just a taste of things to come…
Notorious Jatt’s single Heartbreaker is out now, click here to find out where to buy. The album Gamechanger is out soon.